Striking a Chord: TuneCore Empowers Musical Artists by Providing Global Distribution Without Taking Away Rights or Revenue
Posted: 3.30.18 Entertainment

Striking a Chord: TuneCore Empowers Musical Artists by Providing Global Distribution Without Taking Away Rights or Revenue

By: Jon McDonald

The Crunch: TuneCore, a global music distribution and publishing administration service, is one of the highest revenue-generating platforms in the world for independent musical artists. Launched in 2006, TuneCore partners with a wide range of artists, including well-known musicians, such as Drake, JAY-Z, Beck, and Chance the Rapper, and emerging artists such as Fort Never, Sam Lewis and Ross Golan, and provides independent artists with resources needed to increase visibility in the marketplace. But TuneCore remains unique in that it helps all types of artists reach a wider audience with music distribution through Apple, Spotify, and Amazon, among many other digital stores, while allowing artists to keep their rights and revenue. To further help musicians new to the scene, TuneCore offers tools to connect with fans and even finds opportunities for music placement in film and TV.

When Chance the Rapper took the stage on Saturday Night Live in December 2015, all the lights, the elevated platform, and the trumpets around him were part of a bigger picture. History was being made. Chance the Rapper was the first independent musical artist to perform on SNL, an achievement that materialized with the help of TuneCore.

The global music distribution service that launched in 2006 has provided many indie artists with the tools they need to spread their music without surrendering any revenue or rights. Users have access to download and streaming distribution through iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Play, and others around the world. TuneCore has become one of the highest revenue-generating services in the world because of its reach and value to artists. Since its inception, artists have earned over $1 billion on more than 100 billion downloads and streams.

Chance the Rapper, winner of three Grammy Awards in 2016, is just one of many notable artists to find success through TuneCore. Pop and rock singer-songwriter Ron Pope broke through with 1.5 million digital downloads in 2013. Rapper Nipsey Hussle also earned $1 million from streams and downloads. However, the company has attracted artists of all success levels by acting as an e-commerce partner.

“It’s important to us that TuneCore artists across the globe are equipped to succeed in the music industry on their own terms,” said CEO Scott Ackerman, who has been with the company since 2010. “When artists take control of their careers, they’re empowered to treat their music like a small business and build their teams.”

Headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, with offices around the world, TuneCore has partnered with indie artists and high-profile performers, including Drake, Beck, JAY-Z, Aretha Franklin, Public Enemy, and Willie Nelson. TuneCore is also a publishing administration service, fulfilling license and registration needs while helping artists collect royalties worldwide. It also helps them land placement opportunities in film, TV, commercials, and other monetized spots.

Other services help artists promote their music and connect with fans. More recently, TuneCore has established a way for users to take out advances on future earnings.

Distributing Music Through Apple, Spotify, Amazon, and More

TuneCore has gained solid footing in the music industry, which has seen a dramatic shift in its foundation since the turn of the century. According to the latest IFPI global music report, digital channels made up 50% ($7.8 billion) of total recorded music industry revenue in 2016, an all-time high. The majority of digital revenues now come from streaming, which rose 60.4% — the largest jump in 8 years. Musicians don’t receive much per stream (about half a cent), but around-the-clock access has put Spotify and other platforms on the map.

TuneCore made its name by being at the leading edge of this trend while also filling a void in the industry by helping modern artists without a record label monetize their music. As a digital music distributor, TuneCore helps users reach all corners of the world through platforms like iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, and Google Play. TuneCore has 150-plus digital music partners, which include Asia’s KKBox and India’s SAAVN.

Graph of music industry revenues from 1999-2016

“No matter where artists are in their careers, TuneCore will be there to make sure their music is available online worldwide,” Scott said. “We also allow artists to keep 100% of their sales revenue and arm them with important analytics and promotional tools to grow and build their careers.”

Since TuneCore doesn’t take a piece of the pie when it comes to revenue from distribution, the company instead earns its money from the low annual fee that it charges registered users. To distribute a single, it’s $9.99 per year; an album costs $29.99 per year.

Music Licensed and Registered for Film, TV, and Commercials

When it comes to the publishing administration fee, there’s a one-time sign-up fee of $75, and users get their money’s worth. TuneCore administers composition through licensing and registration for the work and explores other ways to get an artist’s music out there.

Photo of TuneCore CEO Scott Ackerman

CEO Scott Ackerman says TuneCore empowers musicians.

With so many outlets that can translate to royalties — selling, streaming, downloading, public performances — TuneCore does the hard work by tracking down those separate royalties in 13 different forms worldwide.

TuneCore Music Publishing Administration users keep 90% of royalties they earn. Compositions are made available in the Sync and Master Licensing Database accessed by music supervisors around the world, which can lead to publishing deals in film, TV, commercials, video games, or other mediums.

Additionally, artists can seek help from TuneCore’s in-house creative team for proactive public placement for a nominal 20% commission.

How Artists Promote Their Music and Connect with Fans Worldwide

Chance the Rapper’s first song on SNL was “Somewhere in Paradise,” which couldn’t be farther from where indie artists like him and so many others were before TuneCore took the stage. Now, 12 years after its launch, TuneCore is for more than just distribution and publishing; it’s also a marketplace and a community.

Many artists, especially those without a record label, know the effort it takes to make a living off music and get their tracks pumping through as many speakers as possible. TuneCore users have access with Artist Services, a suite of tools that help them promote their music, connect with fans, create a professional website, and get reviews and ratings for their songs.

“TuneCore will continue arming musicians with the tools and services necessary to succeed in the ever-evolving music industry. We’re always listening to our members to build and introduce new, innovative technologies that will help independent artists get their music heard by more people around the world,” Scott said.

Screenshot of TuneCore Artist Services marketplace

The Artist Services marketplace was developed under Scott’s leadership. One of those services is YouTube Sound Recording Revenue, which seeks and collects revenue for TuneCore artists whenever their recordings are used anywhere on YouTube. There is a low, one-time setup fee for all current and future sound recordings, and TuneCore will then deposit 80% of the collected revenue directly into a user’s account on a monthly basis.

Another tool is TuneCore Direct Advance, which is in collaboration with Lyric Financial. The offering allows musicians to take cash advances on future earnings by making requests through their TuneCore Balance Page. After doing so, they receive money through PayPal or Automated Clearing House for a fee. The advance is repaid through an automatic deduction from future streaming and download earnings.

Each tool and service is part of the overall strategy that TuneCore implements to encourage independent musical artists to maintain their freedom and flourish.